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Another Record Year for the Killingworth Ambulance Association

By Clark Judge

(January 24, 2024) — New Year. Same story.

For the fifth consecutive year, the Killingworth Ambulance Association in 2023 responded to a record number of emergency calls. This time the figure was 562, up slightly from 550 a year ago and 496 in 2021 … but a significant hike from 2020 when the KAA answered 370 calls.

That’s a 51.9 percent hike in just three years, and let’s be honest: What happened in 2020 … or didn’t … was due in large part to the COVID outbreak early that year. State and local shutdowns compelled people to travel less frequently until vaccines were available in the spring and summer.

But while the number of calls changed appreciably since then, the specifics have not. As usual, victims of falls last year led the list of responses, as they have almost every year, while sick individuals finished second. That, too, is consistent with ambulance history, as the past two years document.

Here are the top five ambulance calls for 2023, with the percentage of total calls in parentheses:

  1. FALLS …. 122 (21.7 percent).
  2. SICK PERSONS … 99 (17.6 percent).
  3. BREATHING PROBLEMS … 54 (9.6 percent).
  5. TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS … 41 (7.3 percent).

Now look at the calls for the previous year (2022). The numbers and percentages aren’t much different:

  1. FALLS … 119 (21.6 percent)
  2. SICK PERSONS … 104 (18.6 percent).
  3. TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS … 51 (9.1 percent).
  4. BREATHING PROBLEMS … 41 (7.3 percent).

If there’s a takeaway from the latest figures, it’s that responses – both in number and in cases — changed little from one year to the next. That’s one. But another is that the Killingworth Ambulance Association and its techs – all of whom are volunteers — continue to handle an increasing demand for their services.

I’m relieved that the rate of increase has leveled off quite a bit,” said KAA president Dan O’Sullivan, “but I’m still hoping we’ll go back to prior levels , though I don’t think we’ll get all the way there. The thing that most pleases me about this, however, is that we continue to have very good coverage on our calls. A lot of techs stepped up to make sure we’re covering as many calls as possible.”

O’Sullivan should know. He covered the most the past three years, setting a KAA record with 283 from October through 2021-September, 2022.  But he’s not alone. Mary Robbenhaar-Fretz, husband James Fretz and Lisa Barbour joined O’Sullivan as the most active responders the past three years, with James Fretz only 20 responses shy of O’Sullivan a year ago (240-2020).

While the 562 calls works out to a daily average of one-and-a-half calls per day, that figure is a little misleading. Sometimes, the ambulance isn’t summoned at all. Then, it is. Frequently. In fact, on August 29 of last year, Mary and James Fretz were involved in five emergency responses between 6:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

“And only one,” said Mary, “was mutual aid to Clinton. That was the last one. So, it does seem to be ‘feast or famine.’ Sometimes, we’ll have zero. Then, we’ll have three.”

O’Sullivan has noticed, especially with calls down recently. According to records kept by the KAA, monthly responses dropped in December and have continued to stay there in January.

“Maybe things have peaked,” he said, adding that occasional monthly dips aren’t rare. “What happens is that there will be a couple of days where we have no calls and then a couple in a row where we have five or six. Those days where we have 50 or 70 calls a month are really tough. We’re continually stretching the staff to cover them, so we’re always looking for more techs.

“But, that said, I can’t express how appreciative we are to the people of this community. They regularly apologize for calling us, but we’ll tell them, ‘No, that’s why we’re here.’ We don’t want anybody worrying about calling at any hour of the day.”


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